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Air Service Boys in the Big Battle by Charles Amory Beach

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One of a series.

AIR SERVICE BOYS IN THE BIG BATTLE

Or SILENCING THE BIG GUNS

By Charles Amory Beach

CHAPTER I

BAD NEWS FROM THE AIR

"Well, Tom, how's your head now?"

"How's my head? What do you mean? There's nothing the matter with
my head," and the speaker, who wore the uniform of a French aviator,
glanced up in surprise from the cot on which he was reclining in his
tent near the airdromes that stretched around a great level field,
not far from Paris.

"Oh, isn't there?" questioned Jack Parmly, with a smile. "Then I
beg your pardon for asking, my cabbage! I beg your pardon, Sergeant
Raymond!"

Tom Raymond, whose, chum had addressed him by the military title,
looked curiously at his companion, and smiled at the appellation of
the term cabbage. It was one of the many little tricks picked up by
association with their French flying comrades, of speaking to a
friend by some odd, endearing term. It might be cucumber or rose,
cabbage or cart wheel--the words mattered not, it was the meaning
back of them.

"Say, is anything the matter?" went on Tom, as his chum, attired
like himself', but wearing an old blouse covered with oil and
grease, continued to smile. "What gave you the notion that my head
hurt?"

"I didn't say it hurt. I only asked how it was. The swelling
hasn't begun to subside in mine yet, and I was wondering if it had
in yours."

"Swelling? Subside? What in the world--"

Jack Parmly brought to a sudden termination the rapid torrent of
words from the mouth of his churn by silently pointing to a small
medal fastened to the uniform jacket of his friend. It was the
coveted croix de guerre.

"Oh, that!" exclaimed Tom.

"Nothing else, my pickled beet!" answered Jack. "Doesn't it make
your head swell up as if it would burst every time you look at it?
Now don't say it doesn't, for that's the way it affects me, and I'm
sure you're not very different. And every time I read the citation
that goes with the medal--well, I'm just aching for a chance to show
it to the folks back home, aren't you, Sergeant?"

Tom Raymond started a bit at the second use of the title.

"I see you aren't any more used to it than I am!" exclaimed Jack.
"Well, it'll be a little time before we stop looking around to see
if it isn't some one behind us they're talking to. So I thought I'd
practice it a bit on you. And you can do the same for me. I should
think, out of common politeness, you'd get up, salute and call me
the same."

"Oh! Now I see what you're driving at," voiced Tom, as he glanced
up from a momentary look at his medal to the face of his
comrade-in-arms, or perhaps in flying would be more appropriate.
"The wind's in that quarter, is it?"

"No wind at all to speak of," broke in Jack. "If you'd like to go
for a fly, and see if we can bag a Boche or two, I'm with you."

"Against orders, Jack. I'd like to, but we were ordered here for
rest and observation work; and you know, as well as I do, that
obeying orders is just as important as sending a member of the Hun
Flying Circus down where he can't do any more of his grandstand
stunts. But I'm hoping the time will come when we can climb up back
of our machine guns again, and do our bit to show that the little
old U. S. A. is still on the map."

"I guess that time'll soon come, Tom, old man. I heard rumors that
a lot of us were to be sent up nearer the front shortly, and if they
don't include you and me, there'll be something doing in this camp!"

"That's what I say. So you thought I'd have a swelled head, did
you, because they gave us the croix de guerre?"

"I confess I had a faint suspicion that way," admitted Jack. "Both
of us being advanced to sergeants was a big step, too."

"It was," agreed Tom. "I almost wish they hadn't done it, for there
are lots of others in the escadrille that deserve it fully as much,
and some more, than we do."

"That's right. But you can't make these delightful Frenchmen see
anything the way you want 'em to. Once they get a notion in their
heads that you've done something for la belle Frame, they're your
friends for life, kissing you on both cheeks and pinning medals on
you wherever they'll stick."

"Well, they mean all right, Jack," said Tom. "And there aren't any
braver or more lovable people on the face of the earth than these
same French. They've done more and suffered more for their country
than we dream of. And it's only natural that they should say 'much
obliged,' in their own particular way, to any one they think is
helping to free them from the Germans."

"I suppose you're right. But advancing us to sergeants would have
been enough, without pinning the decorations on us and mentioning us
in the order of the day, as well as giving us as fine a citation as
ever was signed by a commanding general. However, it's all in the
day's work, though when we flew over the German super cannons, and
did our bit in helping demolish them so they couldn't shell Paris
any more, we didn't think--or, at least, I didn't--that we'd be
sitting here talking about it."

"Me either," agreed Tom. "But, to get down to brass tacks, what
have you been doing to get into such a mess? You look like a
chauffeur of the old days they tell of when they had to climb under
the car to see if it needed oiling--"

"That's just about what I have been doing," admitted Jack. "When I
heard the rumor that our escadrille might get orders to move at any
hour, I decided that it was up to me to look MY machine over. It
didn't make that nose dive just the way I wanted it to the last time
I was up, and I'm not taking any chances. So I've been crawling in
and around and under it--"

"While I've been lying here I taking it easy!" broke in Tom. "I
don't call that fair of you, Jack," and he seemed genuinely hurt.

"Go easy now, my pickled onion!" laughed his chum. "I wasn't going
to leave you out in the cold. I just came to tell you that you'd
better stop looking like a moving picture of an airman, and put on
some old duds to look over your own craft. And here you go and--"

"All right, old ham sandwich!" laughed Tom.

"I'll forgive you. I'm going to do the same as you, and tinker
with my machine. If, as you say, we're likely to be on the job
again soon, I don't want too take any chances either. Where's that
mechanician of mine? There was something wrong with my joy stick,
he said, the last time I came down out of the clouds to take an
enforced rest, and I might as well start with that, if there's any
repairing to be done--"

Tom flung off his uniform jacket, with the two silver wings,
denoting that he was a full-fledged airman, and sent an orderly to
summon his chief mechanician, for each aviator had several helpers
to run messages for him, as well as to see that his machine is in
perfect trim.

Experts are needed to see to it that the machine and the aviator are
in perfect trim, leaving for the airman himself the trying and
difficult task, sometimes, of flying upside down, while he is making
observations of the enemy with one eye, and fighting off a Boche
with the other--ready to kill or be killed.

Sergeants Tom Raymond and Jack Parmly, chums and fellow airmen
flying for France, started toward the aerodromes where their
machines were kept when not in use. They were both attired now for
hard and not very clean work, though the more laborious part would
be done by mechanics at their orders. Still the lads themselves
would leave nothing to chance. Indeed no airman does, for in very,
truth his He and the success of an army may, at times, depend on the
strength or weakness of a seemingly insignificant bit of wire or the
continuity of a small gasoline pipe.

"Well, it'll seem good to get up in the air again," remarked Jack.
"A little rest is all right, but too much is more than enough."

"Right 0, my sliced liberty bond!" laughed Tom. "And now--"

Their talk was interrupted by a cheer that broke out in front of a
recreation house, in reality a YMCA hut, or le Foyer du Soldat as it
was called. It was where the airmen went when not on duty to read
the papers, write letters and buy chocolate.

"What's up now?" asked Jack, as he and his chum looked toward the
cheering squad of aviators and their assistants.

"Give it up. Let's go over and find out."

They broke into a run as the cheering continued, and then they saw
hats being thrown into the air and men capering about with every
evidence of joy.

"We must have won a big battle!" cried Jack.

"Seems so," agreed Tom. "Hi there! what is it?" he asked in French
of a fellow aviator.

"What is it? You ask me what? Ah, joy of my life! It is you who
ought to know first! It is you who should give thanks! Ah!"

"Yes, that's all right, old man," returned Jack in English. "We'll
give thanks right as soon as we know what it is; but we aren't
mind readers, you know, and there are so many things to guess at
that there's no use in wasting the time. Tell us, like a good
chap!" he begged in French, for he saw the puzzled look on the face
of the aviator Tom had addressed.

"It is the best news ever!" was the answer. "The first of your
brave countrymen have arrived to help us drive the Boche from
France! The first American Expeditionary Force, to serve under your
brave General Pershing, has reached the shores of France safely, in
spite of the U-boats, and are even now marching to show themselves
in Paris! Ah, is it any wonder that we rejoice? How is it you say
in your own delightful country? Two cheers and a lion! Ah!"

"Tiger, my dear boy! Tiger!" laughed Jack. "And, while you're
about it, you might as well make it three cheers and done with it.
Not that it makes any great amount of difference in this case, but
it's just the custom, my stuffed olive!"

And then he and Tom were fairly carried off their feet by the rush
of enthusiastic Frenchmen to congratulate them on the good news, and
to share it with them.

"Is it really true?" asked Tom. "Has any substantial part of Uncle
Sam's boys really got here at last?"

He was told that such was the case. The news had just been received
at the headquarters of the flying squad to which Tom and Jack were
attached. About ten thousand American soldiers were even then on
French soil. Their coming had long been waited for, and the
arrangements sailed in secret, and the news was known in American
cities scarcely any sooner than it was in France, so careful had the
military authorities been not to give the lurking German submarines
a chance to torpedo the transports.

"Is not that glorious news, my friend?" asked the Frenchman who had
given it to Tom and Jack.

"The best ever!" was the enthusiastic reply. And then Jack, turning
to his chum, said in a low voice, as the Frenchman hurried back to
the cheering throng: "You know what this means for us, of course?"

"Rather guess I do!" was the response. "It means we've got to apply
for a transfer and fight under Pershing!"

"Exactly. Now how are we going to do it?"

"Oh, I fancy it will be all right. Merely a question of detail and
procedure. They can't object to our wanting to fight among our own
countrymen, now that enough of them are over here to make a showing.
I suppose this is the first of the big army that's coming."

"I imagine so," agreed Jack. "Hurray! this is something like.
There's going to be hard fighting. I realize that. But this is the
beginning of the end, as I see it."

"That's what! Now, instead of tinkering over our machines, let's
see the commandant and---"

Jack motioned to his chum to cease talking. Then he pointed up to
the sky. There was a little speck against the blue, a speck that
became larger as the two Americans watched.

"One of our fliers coming bark," remarked Tom in a low voice.

"I hope he brings more good news," returned Jack.

The approaching airman came rapidly nearer, and then the throngs
that had gathered about the headquarters building to discuss the
news of the arrival of the first American forces turned to watch the
return of the flier.

"It's Du Boise," remarked Tom, naming an intrepid French fighter.
He was one of the "aces," and had more than a score of Boche
machines to his credit. "He must have been out 'on his own,'
looking for a stray German."

"Yes, he and Leroy went out together," assented Jack. "But I don't
see Harry's machine," and anxiously he scanned the heavens.

Harry Leroy was, like Tom and Jack, an American aviator who had
lately joined the force in which the two friends had rendered such
valiant service. Tom and Jack had known him on the other side--had,
in fact, first met and become friendly with him at a flying school
in Virginia. Leroy had suffered a slight accident which had put him
out of the flying service for a year, but he had persisted, had
finally been accepted, and was welcomed to France by his chums who
had preceded him.

"I hope nothing has happened to Harry," murmured Tom; "but I don't
see him, and it's queer Du Boise would come back without him."

"Maybe he had to--for gasoline or something," suggested Jack.

"I hope it isn't any worse than that," went on Tom. But his voice
did not carry conviction.

The French aviator landed, and as he climbed out of his machine,
helped by orderlies and others who rushed up, he was seen to
stagger.

"Are you hurt?" asked Tom, hurrying up.

"A mere scratch-nothing, thank you," was the answer.

"Where's Harry Leroy?" Jack asked. "Did you have to leave him?"

"Ah, monsieur, I bring you bad news from the air," was the answer.
"We were attacked by seven Boche machines. We each got one, and
then--well, they got me--but what matters that? It is a mere
nothing."

"What of Harry?" persisted Tom.

"Ah, it is of him I would speak. He is--he fell inside the enemy
lines; and I had to come back for help. My petrol gave out, and
I--"'

And then, pressing his hands over his breast, the brave airman
staggered and fell, as a stream of blood issued from beneath his
jacket.

CHAPTER II

A GIRI'S APPEAL

At once half a score of hands reached out to render aid to the
stricken airman, whose blood was staining the ground where he had
fallen.

Tom, seeing that his fellow aviator was more desperately wounded
than the brave man had admitted, at once summoned stretcher-bearers,
and he was carried to the hospital. Then all anxiously awaited the
report of the surgeons, who quickly prepared to render aid to the
fighter of the air.

"How is he?" asked Jack, as he and Tom, lingering near the hospital,
saw one of the doctors emerge.

"He is doing very nicely," was the answer, given in French, for the
two boys of the air spoke this language now with ease, if not always
with absolute correctness.

"Then he isn't badly hurt?" asked Jack.

"No. The wound in his chest was only a flesh one, but it bled
considerably. Two bullets from an aircraft machine gun struck ribs,
and glanced off from them, but tore the flesh badly. The bleeding
was held in check by the pressure DU Boise exerted on the wounds
underneath his jacket, but at last he grew faint from loss of blood,
and then the stream welled out. With rest and care he will be all
right in a few days."

"How soon could we talk with him?" asked Tom.

"Talk with him?" asked the surgeon. "Is that necessary? He is
doing very well, and--"

"Tom means ask him some questions," explained Jack. "You see, he
started to tell us about our chum, Harry Leroy, who was out scouting
with him. Harry was shot down, so Du Boise said, but he didn't get
a chance to give any particulars, and we thought--"

"It will be a day or so before he will be able to talk to you," the
surgeon said. "He is very weak, and must not be disturbed."

"Well, may we talk with him just as soon as possible?" eagerly asked
Jack. "We want to find out where it was that Harry went down in his
machine--out of control very likely--and if we get a chance--"

"We'd like to take it out on those that shot him down!" interrupted
Torn. "Du Boise must have noticed the machines that fought him and
Harry, and if we could get any idea of the Boches who were in them--
"

"I see," and the surgeon bowed and smiled approval of their idea.
"You want revenge. I hope you get it. As soon as we think he is
able to talk," and he nodded in the direction of the hospital, "we
will let you see him. Good luck to you, and confusion to the Huns!"

"Gee, but this is tough luck I" murmured Tom, as he and his chum
turned away. "Just as we were getting ready to go back into the
game, too! Had it all fixed up for Harry to fly with us in a sort
of a triangle scheme to down the Boches, and they have to go and
plump him off the map. Well, it is tough!"

"Yes, sort of takes the fun out of the good news we heard a while
ago," agreed Jack. "I mean about Pershing's boys getting over here
to France. I hope Harry's only wounded, instead of killed. But if
the Huns have him a prisoner--good-night!"

"There's only one consolation," added Tom. "Their airmen are the
best of the lot Of course that isn't saying much, but they behave a
little more like human beings than the rest of the Boche gang; and
if Harry has fallen a prisoner to them he'll get a bit of decent
treatment, anyhow."

"That's so. We'll hope for that. And now let's go on with what we
started when we saw Du Boise coming back--let's see what chance we
have of being transferred to an All American escadrille."

The boys started across the field again toward the headquarters,
and, nearing it, they saw, in a small motor car, a girl sitting
beside the military driver. She was a pretty girl, and it needed
only one glance to show that she was an American.

"Hello!" exclaimed Tom, with a low whistle. "Look who's here!"

"Do you know her?" asked Jack.

"No. Wish I did, though."

Jack glanced quickly and curiously at his chum.

"Oh, you needn't think you're the only chap that has a drag with the
girls," went on Tom. "Just because Bessie Gleason--"

"Cut it out!" exclaimed Jack. "Look, she acts as though she wanted
to speak to us."

The military chauffeur had alighted from the machine and was talking
to one of the French aviation officers. Meanwhile the girl, left to
herself, was looking about the big aviation field, with a look of
wonder, mixed with alarm and nervousness. She caught sight of Tom
and Jack, and a smile came to her face, making her, as Tom said
afterward, the prettiest picture he had seen in a long while.

"You're Americans, aren't you?" began the girl, turning frankly to
them. "I know you are! And, oh, I'm in such trouble!"

Tom stepped ahead of Jack, who was taking off his cap and bowing.

"Let me have a show for my white alley," Tom murmured to his chum.
"You've got one girl."

"You win," murmured Jack.

"Yes, we're from the United States," said Tom. "But it's queer to
see a girl here--from America or anywhere else. How'd you get
through the lines, and what can we do for you?"

"I am looking for my brother," was the answer. "I understood he was
stationed here, and I managed to get passes to come to see him, but
it wasn't easy work. I met this officer in his motor car, and he
brought me along the last stage of the journey. Can you tell me
where my brother is? His name is Harry Leroy."

Torn said afterward that he felt as though he had gone into a
spinning nose dive with a Boche aviator on his tail, while Jack
admitted that he felt somewhat as he did the time his gasoline pipe
was severed by a Hun bullet when he was high in the air and several
miles behind the enemy's lines,

"Your--your brother!" Tom managed to mutter.

"Yes, Harry Leroy. He's from the United States, too. Perhaps you
know him, as I notice you are both aviators. He told me if I ever
got to France to come to see him, and he mentioned the names of two
young men--I have them here somewhere--"

She began to search in the depths of a little leather valise she
carried, and, at that moment, the military chauffeur who had brought
her to the aviation field turned to her, and spoke rapidly in
French.

She understood the language, as did Tom and Jack, and at the first
words her face went white. For the chauffeur informed her that her
brother, Harry Leroy, whom she had come so far to see, was, even
then, lying dead or wounded within the German lines.

"Oh!" the girl murmured, her fare becoming whiter and more white.
"Oh--Harry!"

Then she would have fallen from the seat, only Tom leaped forward
and caught her in his arms.

And while efforts were being made to restore the girl to
consciousness, may I not take this opportunity of telling my new
readers something of the previous books of this series, so that they
may read this one more intelligently?

Torn Raymond and Jack Parmly, as related in the initial volume, "Air
Service Boys Flying for France; or The Young Heroes of the Lafayette
Escadrille," were Virginians. Soon after the great world conflict
started, they burned with a desire to fight on the side of freedom,
and it was as aviators that they desired to help.

Accordingly they went to an aviation school in Virginia, under the
auspices of the Government, and there learned the rudiments of
flying. Tom's father had invented an aeroplane stabilizer, but, as
told in the story, the plans and other papers had been stolen by a
German spy.

Tom and his chum resolved to get possession of the documents, and
they kept up the search after they reached France and were made
members of the Lafayette Escadrille. It was in France that they met
Adolph Tuessing, the German spy.

The second volume, entitled "Air Service Boys Over the Enemy's
Lines; or The German Spy's Secret," takes the two young men through
further adventures. They had become acquainted on the steamer with
a girl named Bessie Gleason and her mother. Carl Potzfeldt, a
German sailing under false colors, claimed to be a friend of Bessie
and her mother, but Jack, who was more than casually interested in
the girl, was suspicious of this man. And his suspicions proved
correct, for Potzfeldt had planned a daring trick.

After some strenuous happenings, in which the Air Service Boys
assisted, Bessie and her mother were rescued from the clutches of
Potzfeldt, and went to Paris, Mrs. Gleason engaging in Red Cross
work, and Bessie helping her as best she could.

Immediately preceding this present volume is the third, called "Air
Service Boys Over the Rhine; or Fighting Above the Clouds."

By this time the United States had entered the great war on the side
of humanity and democracy.

Then the world was startled by the news that a great German cannon
was firing on Paris seventy miles away, and consternation reigned
for a time. Tom and Jack had a hand in silencing the great gun, for
it was they who discovered where it was hidden. Also in the third
volume is related how Tom's father, who had disappeared, was found
again.

The boys passed through many startling experiences with their usual
bravery, so that, when the present story opens, they were taking a
much needed and well-earned rest. Mr. Raymond, having accomplished
his mission, had returned to the United States.

Then, as we have seen, came the news of the arrival of the first of
Pershing's forces, and with it came the sad message that Harry
Leroy, the chum of Torn and Jack, had fallen behind the German
lines. And whether he was alive now, though wounded, or was another
victim of the Hun machine guns, could not be told.

"Harry's sister couldn't have come at a worse time," remarked Tom,
as he rejoined Jack, having carried the unconscious girl to the same
hospital where Du Boise lay wounded.

"I should say not!" agreed Jack. "Do you really suppose she's
Harry's sister?"

"I don't see Any reason to doubt it. She said so, didn't she?"

"Oh, yes, of course. I was just wondering. Say, it's going to be
tough when she wakes up and realizes what's happened."

"You bet it is! This has been a tough day all around, and if it
wasn't for the good news that our boys are in France I'd feel pretty
rocky. But now we've got all the more incentive to get busy!"
exclaimed Tom.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean get our machines in fighting trim. I'm going out and get a
few Germans to make up for what they did to Harry."

"You're right! I'm with you! But what about what's her name--I
mean Harry's sister?"

"I didn't hear her name. Some of the Red Cross nurses are looking
after her. They promised to let me know when she came to. We can
offer to help her, I suppose, being, as you might say, neighbors."

"Sure!" agreed Jack. "I'm with you. But let's go and--"

However they did not go at once, wherever it was that Jack was going
to propose, for, at that moment, one of the Red Cross nurses
attached to the aviation hospital carne to the door and beckoned to
the boys.

"Miss Leroy is conscious now," was the message. "She wants to see
you two," and the nurse smiled at them.

Tom and Jack found Miss Leroy, looking pale, but prettier than ever,
sitting up in a chair. She leaned forward eagerly as they entered,
and, holding out her hands, exclaimed:

"They tell me you are my brother's chums! Oh, can you not get me
some news of him? Can you not let him know that I have come so far
to see him? I am anxious! Oh, where is he?" and she looked from
Tom to Jack, and then to Tom again.

CHAPTER III

ANXIOUS WAITING

Nellie Leroy--for such the boys learned was her name--broke the
silence, that was growing tense, by asking:

"Is there any hope? Tell me, do you think there is a chance that my
brother may be alive?"

"Yes, there is, certainly!" exclaimed Tom quickly, before Jack had
an opportunity to give, possibly, a less hopeful answer.

"And if he is alive, is there a chance that he may be rescued--that
I may go to him?" she went on.

"Hardly that," said Tom, slowly. "It's a wonder you ever got as
near to the front as this. But as for getting past the German
lines--"

"Then what can I do?" asked Nellie Leroy, eagerly. "Oh, tell me
something that I can do. I'm used to hard work," she went on.
"I've been a Red Cross nurse for some time, and I helped in one big
explosion of a munitions plant in New Jersey before I came over.
That's one reason they let me come--because I proved that I could do
things I" and she did look very efficient, in spite of her paleness,
in spite of her, seeming frailness. There was an indefinable air
about her which showed that she would carry through whatever she
undertook. "I never fainted before--never."

"It's like this," said Tom, and Jack seemed content, now, to let his
chum play the chief role. "When one of us goes down in his machine
back of the enemy's lines, those left over here never really know
what has happened for a few days."

"And how do they know then?' she asked.

"The German airmen are more decent than some of the other Hun forces
we're fighting," explained Torn. "Generally after they capture one
of our escadrille members, dead or alive, they fly over our lines a
few days later and drop a cap, or a glove, or something that belongs
to the prisoner. Sometimes they attach a note, written by one of
their airmen or from the prisoner, giving news of his condition."

"And you think they may do this in my brother's case?" asked Nellie.

"They are very likely to," assented Tom, and Jack, to whom the girl
looked for confirmation, nodded, his agreement.

"How long shall we have to wait?" Harry's sister asked.

"There is no telling," said Tom "Sometimes it's a week before their
airmen get a chance to fly over our lines. It all depends."

"On what?"

"On how the battle goes," answered Tom. "If there is much fighting,
and many engagements in the air, the Boches don't get a chance to
fly over and drop tokens of our men they may have shot down. We do
the same for them, so it's six of one and a half dozen of the other.
Often for a week we don't get a chance to let them know about
prisoners we have, because the fighting is so severe."

"Will it be that way now?" the girl went on.

"Hard to say--we don't have the ordering of battles," replied Jack.
"But it's been rather quiet for a few days, and it's likely to
continue so. If it does one of their men may fly over to-morrow, or
the next day, and drop something your brother wore--or even a note
from him."

"Oh, I hope they do the last!" she murmured. "If I could have a
note from him I'd be the happiest girl alive I I'd know, then, that
he was all right."

"He may be," said Tom, trying to be hopeful. "You see Du Boise, who
was with Harry when the fight took place, is himself wounded, so he
can't tell us much about it."

"Yes, they told me that my brother's companion reached here badly
hurt. He is so brave! I wish they would let me help take care of
him. I understand a great deal about wounds, and I'm not at all
afraid of the sight of blood. It was silly of me to faint just now,
but--I--I couldn't help it. I'd been counting so much on seeing
Harry, and when they told me he was gone--"

She covered her face with her hands, and endeavored to repress her
emotion.

"You're not Harry's little sister, are you?" asked Jack, hoping to
change the current of talk into other and happier channels.

"No; that's Mabel--Mab he calls her. She's younger than I. Did he
often speak of her?"

"Oh, yes; and you too!" exclaimed Tom, so warmly that Nellie
blushed, and the damask tint in her hitherto pale cheeks was most
becoming.

"We've seen your picture, and Mab's too," went on Tom. "Harry keeps
them just over his cot in the barracks. But I didn't recognize you
when I saw you a little while ago in the machine. Though I might
have, if so many things hadn't happened all at once, and made me
sort of hazy," Tom explained.

"Then are you and my brother good friends?" asked Nellie.

"The best ever!" exclaimed Tom, and Jack warmly assented. "Not so
many Americans are in this branch of the escadrille as are in
others," Torn went on; "so Harry and Jack and I are a sort of little
trio all by ourselves. He hardly ever goes up without us, but we
are on a rest billet; and to-day he went up with Du Boise."

"If he had only come back!" sighed Nellie. "But there! I mustn't
complain. Harry wouldn't let me if he were here. We both have to
do our duty. Now I'm going to see what I can do to help, and not be
silly and do any more fainting. I hope you'll pardon me," and she
smiled at the two boys.

"Of course!" exclaimed Tom, with great emphasis, and again Miss
Leroy blushed.

"Then, is to wait the only thing we can do?" she asked.

"That's all," assented Tom. "We may get a message from the clouds
any day."

"And, oh! I shall pray that it may be favorable!" murmured the girl.
"Perhaps I may question this Mr. Du Boise, and learn from him just
what happened?" she interrogated.

"Yes, we want to talk to him ourselves, as soon as he's able to sit
up," said Jack. "We want to get a shot at the Boche who downed
Harry."

"So you are as fond of Harry as all that! I am glad!" exclaimed his
sister. "Have you known him long?"

"We knew him slightly before we went to the flying school in
Virginia with him," said Tom. "But down there, when we started in
at 'grass-cutting,' and worked our way up, we grew to know him
better. Then Jack and I got our chance to come over. But Harry had
a smash, and he had to wait a year."

"Yes, I know. It almost broke his heart," said Miss Leroy. "I was
away at school at the time, which accounts for my not knowing more
of you boys, since Harry always wrote me, or told me, about his
chums. Then, when I came back after my graduation, I found that he
had sailed for France."

"And maybe we weren't glad to see him!" exclaimed Tom. "It was like
getting letters from home."

"Yes, I recall, now, his mentioning that he had met over here some
students from the Virginia school," said Miss Leroy. "Well, after
Harry sailed I was wild to go, but father and mother would not hear
of it at first. Then, when the war grew worse, and I showed them
that I could do hard work for the Red Cross, they consented. So I
sailed, but I never expected to get like this."

"Oh, well, everything may come out all right," said Tom, as
cheerfully as he could. But, in very truth, he was not very hopeful
in his heart.

For once an aviator succumbs to the hail of bullets from the German
machine guns in an aircraft, and his own creature of steel and wings
goes hurtling down, there is only a scant chance that the disabled
airman will land alive.

Of course some have done it, and, even with their machines out of
control and on fire, they have lived through the awful experience.
But the chances were and are against them.

Harry Leroy had been seen to go down, apparently with his machine
out of control, after a fusillade of Boche bullets. This much Du
Boise had said before his collapse. As to what the fallen aviator's
real fate was, time alone could disclose.

"I can only wait!" sighed Nellie, as the boys took their leave.
"The days will be anxious ones--days of waiting. I shall help here
all I can. You'll let me know the moment there is any news--good or
bad--won't you?" she begged; and her eyes filled with tears.

"We'll bring you the news at once--night or day!" exclaimed Tom,
vigorously.

As he and Jack walked out of the hospital, the latter remarked:

"You seem to be a favorite there, all right, Tom, my boy. If we
weren't such good chums I might be a bit jealous."

"If you feel that way I'll drop Bessie Gleason a note!" suggested
Tom, quickly.

"Don't!" begged Jack. "I'll be good!"

CHAPTER IV

TRANSFERRED

One glance at the bulletin board, erected just outside their
quarters at the aerodrome, told Tom and Jack what they were detailed
for that day. It was the day following the arrival of Nellie Leroy
at that particular place in France, only to find that her brother
was missing--either dead, or alive and a prisoner behind the German
lines.

"Sergeant Thomas Raymond will report to headquarters at eight
o'clock, to do patrol work."

"Sergeant Jack Parmly will report to headquarters at eight o'clock
for reconnaissance with a photographer, who will be detailed."

Thus read the bulletin board, and Tom and Jack, looking at it,
nodded to one another, while Tom remarked:

"Got our work cut out for us all right."

"Yes," agreed Jack. "Only I wish I could change places with you. I
don't like those big, heavy machines."

But orders are orders, nowhere more so than in the aviation squad,
and soon the two lads, after a hearty if hasty breakfast, were ready
for the day's work. They each realized that when the sun set they
might either be dead, wounded or prisoners. It was a life full of
eventualities.

A little later the two young airmen, in common with their comrades,
were ready. Some were to do patrol work, like Tom--that is fly over
and along the German lines in small swift, fighting planes, to
attack a Hun machine, if any showed, and to give notice of any
attack, either from the air or on the ground. The latter attacks
the airmen would observe in progress and report to the commanders of
infantry or batteries who could take steps to meet the attack, or
even frustrate it.

Tom was assigned to a speedy Spad machine, one of great power and
lightness into which he climbed. He was to fly alone, and on his
machine was a machine gun of the Vickers type, which had to be aimed
by directing, or pointing, the aeroplane itself at the enemy.

After Tom had given a hasty but careful look at his craft, and had
assured himself of the accuracy of the report of his mechanician
that it had oil and petrol, his starter took his place in front of
the propeller.

"Well, Jack," called Tom to his chum, across the field, where Jack
was making his preparations for taking up a photographer in a big
two-seated machine, "I wish you luck."

"Same to you, old man. If you see anything of Harry, and he's
alive, tell him we'll bring him back home as soon as we get a
chance."

"Do you think there is any chance?" asked Tom eagerly. "I wouldn't
want anything better than to get Harry away from those Boches--and
make his sister happy."

"Well, there's a chance, but it's a slim one, I'm afraid," remarked
Jack. "We'll talk about it after we get back. Maybe there'll be a
message from the Huns about him before the day is over."

"I hope so," murmured Tom. "If those Huns only act as decently
toward us as we do toward them, we'll have some news soon."

For it is true, in a number of instances that the German aviators do
drop within the allied lines news of any British, French or American
birdman who is captured or killed inside the German lines.

"All ready?" asked Tom of his helper.

"Switch off, gas on," was the answer.

Tom made sure that the electrical switch was disconnected. If it
was left on, in "contact" as it is called, and the mechanician
turned the propeller blades, there might have been a sudden starting
of the engine that would have instantly kill the man. But with the
switch off there could be no ignition in the cylinders.

Slowly the man turned the big blades until each cylinder was sucked
full of the explosive mixture of gasoline and air.

"Contact!" he cried, and Tom threw over the switch.

Then, stepping once more up to the propeller, the man gave it a
pull, and quickly released it, jumping back out of harm's way.

With a throbbing roar the engine awoke to life and the propeller
spun around, a blur of indistinctness. The motor was working
sweetly. Toni throttled down, assured himself that everything was
working well, and then, with a wave of his hand toward Jack, began
to taxi across the field, to head up into the wind. All aeroplanes
are started this way--directly into the wind, to rise against it and
not with it. On and on he went and then he began to climb into the
air. With him climbed other birdmen who were to do patrol and
contact work with him, the latter being the term used when the
airship keeps in contact through signaling with infantry or artillery
forces on the ground, directing their efforts against the enemy.

Having seen Tom on his way, Jack turned to his own machine. As his
chum had been, Jack was dressed warmly in fur garments, even to his
helmet, which was fur lined. He had on two pairs of gloves and his
eyes were protected with heavy goggles. For it is very cold in the
upper regions, and the swift speed of the machine sends the wind
cutting into one's face so that it is impossible to see from the
eyes unless they are protected.

Jack's machine was a two-seater, of a heavy and comparatively safe
type--that is it was safe as long as it was not shot down by a Hun.
Jack was to occupy the front seat and act as pilot, while Harris,
the photographer he was to take up, sat behind him, with camera,
map, pencil and paper ready at hand for the making of observations.

On either side of the photographer's seat were six loaded drums of
ammunition for the Lewis gun, for use against the ruthless Hun
machines. Jack had a fixed Vicker machine weapon for his use.

"Hope I get a chance to use 'em," said Harris with a grin, as he
climbed into his seat, patted the loaded drums, and nodded to Jack
that he was ready.

The same procedure was gone through as in the case of Tom. The man
spun the propeller, and they were ready to set off. Accompanying
them were two other reconnaissance planes, and four experienced
fighting pilots, two of them "aces," that is men who, alone, had
each brought down five or more Hun planes. The big planes, used for
obtaining news, pictures, and maps of the enemy's territory, are
always accompanied by fighting planes, which look out for the
attacking Germans, while the other, and less speedy, craft carry the
men who are to bring back vital information.

"Let her go!" exclaimed Harris to Jack, and the latter nodded to the
mechanician, who, after the order of "contact," spun the blades
again and they were really off, together with the others.

Up and up went Jack, sending his machine aloft in big circles as the
others were doing. Before him on a support was clamped a map,
similar to the one supported in front of Harris, and by consulting
this Jack knew, from the instructions he had received before going
up, just what part of the enemy's territory he was to cover. He was
under the direction of the photographer and map-maker, for the two
duties were combined in this instance.

Up and up they went. There was no talking, for though this is
possible in an aeroplane when the engine is shut off, such was not
now the case. But Jack knew his business.

His indicator soon showed them to be up about fourteen thousand
feet, and below them an artillery duel was in progress. It was a
wonderful, but terrible sight. Immediately under them, and rather
too near for comfort, shrapnel was bursting all around. The
"Archies," or anti-aircraft guns of the Germans, were trying to
reach the French planes, and, in addition to the bullets, "woolly
bears" and "flaming onions" were sent up toward them. These are two
types of bursting shells, the first so named because when it
explodes it does so with a cloud of black smoke and a flaming
center. I have never been able to learn how the "onions" got their
name, unless it is from the stench let loose by the exploding gases.

Though they were fired at viciously, neither Jack nor his companion
was hit, and they continued on their way, keeping at a good height,
as did their associates, until they were well over the front German
lines.

Jack noticed that some of the other planes were dropping lower, to
give their observers a chance to do their work, and, in response to
a shove in his back from the powerful field glasses carried by
Harris, Jack sent his machine down to about the nine-thousand-foot
level. By a glance at the map he could see that they were now over
the territory concerning which a report was wanted.

They were now under a heavy fire from the German anti-aircraft guns,
but Jack was too old a hand to let this needlessly worry him. He
sent his machine slipping from side to side, holding it on a level
keel now and then, to enable Harris to get the photographs he
wanted. In addition, the observer was also making a hasty, rough,
but serviceable map of what he saw.

Jack glanced down, and noted a German supply train puffing its way
along toward some depot, and he headed toward this to give Harris a
chance to note whether there were any supplies of ammunition, or
anything else, that might profitably be bombed later. He also saw
several columns of German infantry on the march, but as they were
not out to make an attack now, they had to watch the Huns moving up
to the front line trenches, there later, doubtless, to give battle.

Back and forth over the German lines flew Jack, Harris meanwhile
doing important observation work. As Jack went lower he came under
a fiercer fire of the batteries, until, it became so hot, from the
shrapnel bursts, that he fain would have turned and made for home.
But orders were orders, and Harris had not yet indicated that he had
enough.

Twisting and turning, to make as poor a mark as possible for the
enemy guns, Jack sent his machine here and there. The other pilots
were doing the same. Machine guns were now opening up on them, and
once the burst of fire came so close that Jack began to "zoom."
That is he sent his craft up and down sharply, like the curves and
bumps in a roller-coaster railway track.

By this time the leading plane gave the signal for the return, and,
thankful enough that they had not been hit, Jack swung about. But
the danger was not over. They had yet to pass across the enemy's
front line trenches, and when Harris signaled Jack to go down low in
crossing the lad wondered what the order was for. It was merely
that the observer wanted to see what was going on there so he could
report.

They went down to within a mile of the earth, and several times the
plane was struck by pieces of shrapnel or bullets from machine guns.
Twice flying bits of metal came uncomfortably close to Jack, but he
was kept too busy with the management of his machine to more than
notice them. Harris was working hard at the camera and the maps.

Then, suddenly, came the danger signal from the leading plane, and
only just in time. Out from the German hangars came several battle
machines. Harris dropped his pencil and got ready the automatic
gun, but it was not needed, for, after approaching as though about
to attack, the Huns suddenly veered off. Later the reason for this
became known. A squadron of French planes had arisen as swiftly to
give battle, and however brave the Hun may be when he outnumbers the
enemy, he had yet to be known to take on a combat against odds.

So Jack and his observer safely reached the aerodrome again,
bringing back much valuable information.

"Is Tom here yet?" was Jack's first inquiry after he had divested
himself of his togs and men had rushed to the developing room the
camera with its precious plates.

"Not yet," some of his chums told him. "They're having a fight
upstairs I guess."

Jack nodded and looked anxiously in the direction in which Tom was
last seen.

It was an hour before the scouting airplanes came back, and one was
so badly shot up and its pilot so wounded that it only just managed
to get over the French lines before almost crashing to earth.

"Are you all right, Tom?" cried Jack, as he rushed up to his chum,
when he saw the latter getting out of his craft, rather stiff from
the cold.

"Yes. They went at me hard--two of 'em but I think I accounted for
one, unless he went into a spinning nose dive just to fool me."

"Oh, they'll do that if they get the chance."

"I know," assented Tom. "Hello!" he exclaimed as he noticed a
splintered strut near his head. "That came rather close."

And indeed it had. For a bullet, or a piece of shrapnel, has plowed
a furrow in the bit of supporting wood, not two inches away from
Tom's head, though in the excitement of the fight he had not noticed
it.

There had been a fight in the upper air and one of the French
machines had not come home.

"Another man to await news of," said the flight lieutenant sadly,
when the report reached him. "That's two in two days."

"No news of Leroy yet?" asked Tom and Jack, as they went out of
headquarters after reporting.

"None, I am sorry to say. It is barely possible that he landed in
some lonely spot and is still hiding out--if he is not killed. But
I understand you two young men had something to request of me. I
can give you some attention now," went on the commander of their
squadron.

"We want to be transferred!" exclaimed Tom. "Now, that Pershing's
men are here--"

"I understand," was the answer. "You want to fight with your
countrymen. Well, I would do the same. I will see if I can get you
transferred, though I shall much regret losing you."

He was as good as his word, and a week later, following some
strenuous fights in the air, Tom and Jack received notice that they
could report to the first United States air squadron, which was then
being formed on that part of the front where the first of Pershing's
men were brigaded with, the French and British armies.

Du Boise, who had brought word back of the fate that had befallen
Harry Leroy, sent for Tom and Jack when it became known that they
were to leave.

"Shall I ever see you again?" he asked wistfully.

"To be sure," was Tom's hearty answer. "We aren't going far away,
and we'll fly over to see you the first chance we get. Besides,
we're going to depend on you to give us some information regarding
Leroy. If the Huns drop any message at all they'll do it at this
aerodrome."

"Yes, I believe you're right," assented Du Boise, trying not to show
the pain that racked him. "But it's so long, now, I begin to
believe he must be dead, and either the Huns don't know it or they
aren't going to bother to send us word. But I'll let you know as
soon as I hear anything."

"Is his sister here yet?" asked Jack, for Tom and he had been too
busy the last two days, getting ready to shift their quarters, to
call on Nellie Leroy.

"She has gone back to Paris," answered Du Boise. "There was no
place for her here. I can give you her address. I promised to let
her know in case I got word about her brother."

"I wish you would give me the address!" exclaimed Tom eagerly, and
his chum smiled at his show of interest.

CHAPTER V

THE RESOLVE

"Well, to-morrow, if all goes well, we'll be with Pershing's boys,"
remarked Jack, as he and Tom were sitting in their quarters after
breakfast, the last day but one they were to spend in the Lafayette
Escadrille with which they had so long been associated.

"That's so. We'll soon be on the firing line with Uncle Sam,"
agreed Tom. "Of course we've been with him, in a way, ever since
we've been fighting, for it's all in the same cause. But there'll
be a little more satisfaction in being 'on our own,' as the English
say."

"You're right. What's on for to-day?" asked Jack.

"Haven't the least idea. But here comes a messenger now."

As Tom spoke he glanced from a window and saw an orderly coming
toward their quarters. The man seemed in a hurry.

"Something's up!" decided Jack. "Maybe they've got word from poor
Harry."

"I'm beginning to give him up," said Tom. "If they were going to
let us have any news of him they'd have done it long ago--the
beasts!" and he fairly snarled out the words.

"Still I'm not giving up," returned Jack. "I can't explain why, but
I have a feeling that, some day, we'll see Harry Leroy again."

Tom shook his head.

"I wish I could be as hopeful as you," he said. "Maybe we'll see
him again--or his grave. But I want to say, right now, that if ever
I have a chance at the Hun who shot him down, that Hun Will get no
mercy from me!"

"Same here!" echoed Jack. "But here comes the orderly."

The man entered and handed Jack a slip of paper. It was from the
commander of their squadron, and said, in effect, that though Tom
and Jack were no longer under his orders, having been duly
transferred to another sector, yet he would be obliged if they would
call on him, at his quarters.

"Maybe he has news!" exclaimed Jack, eagerly.

Again Tom shook his head.

"He'd have said so if that was the case," he remarked as he and his
chum prepared to report at headquarters, telling the messenger they
would soon follow him.

"Ah, young gentlemen, I am glad to see, you!" exclaimed the
commander, and it was as friends that he greeted Tom and Jack and
not as military subordinates. "Do you want to do me one last
favor?"

"A thousand if we can!" exclaimed Jack, for he and Tom had caught
something of the French enthusiasm of manner, from having associated
with the brave airmen so long.

"Good! Then I shall feel free to ask. Know then, that I am a
little short-handed in experienced airmen. The Huns have taken
heavy toll of us these last few days," he went on sorrowfully, and
Torn and Jack knew this to be so, for two aces, as well as some
pilots of lesser magnitude, had been shot down. But ample revenge
had been taken.

"By all rights you are entitled to a holiday before you join your
new command, under the great Pershing," went on the flight
commander. "However, as I need the services of two brave men to do
patrol duty, I appeal to you. There is a machine gun nest,
somewhere in the Boche lines, that has been doing terrible
execution. If you could find the battery, and signal its location,
we might destroy it with our artillery, and so save many brave lives
for France," he went on. "I do not like to ask you--"

"Tell 'em to get out the machines!" interrupted Jack. "We were just
wishing we could do something to make up for the loss of Harry
Leroy, and this may give it to us. You haven't heard anything of
him, have you?" he asked.

The commander shook his head.

"I fear we shall never hear from him," he said. "Though only
yesterday we received back some of the effects of one of our men who
was shot down behind their lines. I can not understand in Leroy's
case."

"Well, we'll make 'em pay a price all right!" declared Tom. "And
now what about this machine gun nest?"

The commander gave them such information as he had. It was not
unusual, such work as Tom and Jack were about to undertake. As the
officer had said, they were practically exempt now that they were
about to be transferred. But they had volunteered, as he probably
knew they would.

Two speedy Spad machines were run out for the use of Tom and Jack,
each one to have his own, for the work they were to do was dangerous
and they would have need of speed.

They looked over the machine guns to see that they were in shape for
quick work, and as the one on the machine Tom selected had congealed
oil on the mechanism, having lately returned from a high flight,
another weapon was quickly attached. Nothing receives more care and
attention at an aerodrome than the motor of the plane and the
mechanism of the machine gun. The latter are constructed so as to
be easily and quickly mounted and dismounted, and at the close of
each day's flight the guns are carefully inspected and cleaned ready
for the morrow.

"Locate the machine gun battery if you can," was the parting request
to Tom and Jack as they prepared to ascend. "Send back word of the
location as nearly as you can to our batteries, and the men there
will see to the rest."

"We will!" cried the Americans.

Locating a machine gun nest is not as easy as picking out a hostile
battery of heavier guns, for the former, being smaller, are more
easily concealed.

But Tom and Jack would, of course, do their best to help out their
friends, the French. Over toward the German lines they flew, and
began to scan with eager eyes the ground below them. They could not
fly at a very great height, as they needed to be low down in order
to see, and in this position they were a mark for the anti-aircraft
guns of the Huns.

They had no sooner got over the enemy trenches, and were peering
about for the possible location of the machine gun emplacement, when
they were greeted with bursts of fire. But by skillfully dodging
they escaped being hit themselves, though their machines were
struck. The two chums were separated by about a mile, for they
wanted to cover as much ground as possible.

At last, to his great delight, Tom saw a burst of smoke from a
building that had been so demolished by shell fire that it seemed
nothing could now inhabit it. But the truth was soon apparent. The
machine gun nest was in the cellar, and from there, well hidden, had
been doing terrible execution on the allied forces. Pausing only to
make sure of his surmise, Tom began to tap out on his wireless key
the location of the hidden machine gun nest.

Most of the aeroplanes carry a wireless outfit. An aerial trails
after them, and the electric impulses, dripping off this, so to
speak, reach the battery headquarters. Owing to the noise caused by
the motor of the airship, no message can be sent to the airman in
return, and he has to depend on signs made on the ground, arrows or
circles in white by day and lighted signals at night, to make sure
that his messages are being received and understood.

The Allies, of course, possess maps of every sector of the enemy's
front, so that by reference to these maps the aircraft observer can
send back word as to almost the precise location of the battery
which it is desired to destroy.

Quickly tapping out word where the battery was located, Tom awaited
developments, circling around the spot in his machine. He was fired
at from guns on the ground below, but, to his delight, no hostile
planes rose to give him combat. A glance across the expanse,
however, showed that Jack was engaging two.

"He's keeping them from me!" thought Tom, and his heart was heavy,
for he realized that Jack might be killed. However, it was the
fortune of war. As long as the Hun planes were fighting Jack they
would not molest him, and he might have time to send word to the
French battery that would result in the destruction of the Hun
machine nest.

There came a burst of fire from the Allied lines he had left, and
Tom saw a shell land to the left and far beyond the Hun battery
hidden in the old ruins. He at once sent back a correcting signal.

The more a gun is elevated up to a certain point, the farther it
shoots. Forty-three degrees is about the maximum elevation. Again,
if a gun is elevated too high it shoots over instead of directly at
the target aimed at. It is then necessary to lower the elevation.
Tom has seen that the guns of the French battery, which were seeking
to destroy the machine gun nest were shooting beyond the mark.
Accordingly they were told to depress their muzzles.

This was done, but still the shells fell to the left, and an
additional correction was necessary. It is comparatively easy to
make corrections in elevation or depression that will rectify errors
in shooting short of or beyond a mark. It is not so easy to make
the same corrections in what, for the sake of simplicity, may be
called right or left errors, that is horizontal firing. To make
these corrections it becomes needful to inscribe imaginary circles
about the target, in this case the machine gun nest.

These circles are named from the letters of the alphabet. For
instance, a circle drawn three hundred yards around a Hun battery as
a center might be designated A. The next circle, two hundred yards
less in size, would be B and so on, down to perhaps five yards, and
that is getting very close.

The circles are further divided, as a piece of pie is cut, into
twelve sectors, and numbered from 1 to 12. The last sector is due
north, while 6 would be due south, 3 east, and 9 west, with the
other figures for northeast, southwest, and so on.

If a shot falls in the fifty-yard circle, indicated by the letter D,
but to the southwest of the mark, it is necessary to indicate that
by sending the message "D-7," which would mean that, speaking
according to the points of the compass, the missile had fallen
within fifty yards of the mark, but to the south-southwest of it,
and correction must be made accordingly.

Tom watched the falling shells. They came nearer and nearer to the
hidden battery and at last he saw one fall plump where it was
needed. There was a great puff of smoke, and when it had blown away
there was only a hole in the ground where the ruins had been hiding
the machine guns.

Tom's work was done, and he flew off to the aid of Jack, who had
overcome one Hun, sending his plane crashing to earth. But the
other, an expert fighter, was pressing him hard until Ton opened up
on him with his machine gun. Then the German, having no stomach for
odds, turned tail and flew toward his own lines.

"Good for you, Tom!" yelled Jack, though he knew his chum could not
hear him because of the noise of the motor.

Together the two lads, who had engaged in their last battle strictly
with the French, made for their aerodrome, reaching it safely,
though, as it was learned when Jack dismounted, he had received a
slight bullet wound in one side from a missile sent by one of the
attacking planes. But the hurt was only a flesh wound; though, had
it gone an inch to one side, it would have ended Jack's fighting
days.

Hearty and enthusiastic were the congratulations that greeted the
exploit of Torn in finding the German machine gun nest that had been
such a menace, nor were the thanks to Jack any less warm, for
without his help Tom could never have maintained his position, and
sent back corrections to the battery which brought about the desired
result.

"It is a glorious end to your stay with us," said the commander,
with shining eyes, as he congratulated them.

There was a little impromptu banquet in the quarters that night, and
Tom and Jack were bidden God-speed to their new quarters.

"There's only one thing I want to say!" said Jack quietly, as he
rose in response to a demand that he talk.

"Let us hear it, my slice of bacon!" called a jolly ace.

"It's this," went on Jack. "That I hereby resolve that if we--I
mean Tom and I--can't rescue our comrade, Harry Leroy, from the
Huns--provided he's alive--that we'll take a toll of five Germans
for him--or as many, up to that number, as we can shoot down before
they get us. Five German fliers is the price of Harry Leroy, who
was worth a hundred of them!"

"Bravo! Hurrah! So he was! Death to the Huns!" were the cries.

Torn Raymond sprang to his feet

"What Jack says I say!" he cried. "But I double the toll. If Harry
Leroy is dead he leaves a sister. You all saw her here! Well, I'll
get five Huns for her, and that makes ten between Jack and me!"

"Success to you!" cried several.

With this resolve to spur them on, Tom and Jack bade their bravo
comrades farewell and started for Paris, whence they were to journey
to the headquarters of General Pershing and his men.

CHAPTER VI

IN PARIS

Attired in their natty uniforms of the La Fayette Escadrille, which
they had not discarded, with the double wings showing that they were
fully qualified pilots and aviators, Jack Parmly and Tom Raymond
attracted no little attention as, several hours after leaving their
places on the battle front, they arrived in Paris. They were to
have a few days rest before joining the newly formed American
aviation section which, as yet, was hardly ready for active work.

"Well, they're here!" suddenly cried Tom, as he and Jack made their
way out of the station to seek a modest hotel where they might stay
until time for them to report.

"Who? Where? I don't see 'em!" exclaimed Jack, as he crowded to
the side of his chum, murmurs from a group of French persons
testifying to the esteem in which the American lads were held.

"There!" went on Tom, pointing. "See some of our doughboys! And
maybe the crowds aren't glad to have 'em here! It's great, I tell
you, great!"

As he spoke he pointed to several khaki-clad infantrymen, some of
the first of the ten thousand Americans lads that were sent over to
"take the germ out of Germany." The Americans were rather at a
loss, but they seemed masters of themselves, and laughed and talked
with glee as they gazed on the unfamiliar scenes. They, too, were
enjoying a holiday before being sent on to be billeted with the
French or British troops.

"Come on, let's talk to 'em!" cried Tom, enthusiastically. "It's as
good as a letter from home to see 'em!"

"I thought you meant you saw--er--Bessie and her mother," returned
Jack, and there was a little disappointment in his voice.

"Oh, we'll see them soon enough, if they're still in Paris," said
Tom, gazing curiously at his chum. "But they don't know we are
coming here."

"Yes, they do," said Jack, quietly.

"They do? Then you must have written."

"Of course. Don't you want to see them before we get shipped off to
a new sector?"

"Why, yes. Just now, though, I'm anxious to hear some good, old
United States talk. Come on, let's speak to 'em. There's one bunch
that seems to be in trouble."

But the trouble was only because some of Pershing's boys--as they
were generally called wanted to make some purchases at a candy shop
and did not know enough of the language to make their meaning clear.
It was a good-natured misunderstanding, and both the French
shop-keeper and his helper and the doughboys were laughing over it.

"Hello, boys! Glad to see you! Can we help you out?" asked Tom, as
he and Jack joined the group.

The infantrymen whirled about.

"Well, for the love of the Mason an' Dixon line! is there somebody
heah who can speak our talk?" cried one lad, his accent unmistakably
marking him as Southern.

"Guess we can help you out," said Jack. "We're from God's country,
too," and in an instant the were surrounded and being shaken hands
with on all sides, while a perfect barrage of questions was fired at
them.

Then, when the little misunderstanding at the candy shop had been
straightened out, Tom and Jack told something of who they were,
mentioning the fact that they were soon to fight directly under the
stars and stripes, information which drew whoops of delight from the
enthusiastic infantrymen.

"But say, friend," called out one of the new American soldiers, "can
you sling enough of this lingo to lead us to a place where we can
get ham and eggs? I mean a real eating place, not just a coffee
stand. I've been opening my mouth, champing my jaws and rubbing my
stomach all day, trying to tell these folks that I'm hungry and want
a square meal, and half the time they think I need a doctor. Lead
me to a hash foundry."

"All right, come on with us!" laughed Tom. "We're going to eat,
too. I guess we can fix you up."

The two aviators had been in Paris before and they knew their way
about, as well as being able to speak the language fairly well.
Soon, with their new friends from overseas, they were seated in a
quiet restaurant, where substantial food could be had in spite of
war prices. And then it was give and take, question and answer,
until a group of Parisians that had gathered about turned away
shaking their heads at their inability to understand the strange
talk. But they were well aware of the spirit of it all, and more
than one silently blessed the Americans as among the saviors of
France.

The wonderful city seemed filled with soldiers of all the Allied
nations, and most conspicuous, because of recent events, were the
khaki-clad boys who were soon to fight under Pershing. Having seen
that the little contingent they had taken under their protection got
what they wanted, Tom and Jack, bidding them farewell, but promising
to see them again soon, went to their hotel.

And, their baggage arriving, Jack proceeded to get ready for a bath
and a general furbishing. He seemed very particular.

"Going out?" asked Tom.

"Why--er--yes. Thought I'd go to call on Bessie Gleason. This is
her night off duty--hers and her mother's."

"How do you know?"

"Well--er--she said so. Want to come?"

"Nixy. Two's company and you know what three is."

"Oh, come on! Mrs. Gleason will be glad to see you."

"Well, I suppose I might," assented Tom, who, truth to tell, did not
relish spending the evening alone.

Bessie and her mother had, of late, been assigned as Red Cross
workers to a hospital in the environs of Paris, and ant times they
could come into the city for a rest. They maintained a modest
apartment not far from the hotel where Tom and Jack had put up, and
soon the two lads found themselves at the place where their friends
lived.

"Oh, I'm so glad you both came!" exclaimed Bessie as she greeted
them. "We have company and--"

"Company!" exclaimed Jack, drawing back.

"Yes, the dearest, most delightful girl you ever--"

"Girl!" exclaimed Tom.

"Yes. But come on in and meet her. I'm sure you'll both fall in
love with her."

Jack was on the point of saying something, but thought better of it,
and a moment later, to the great surprise of himself and Torn, they
were facing Nellie Leroy.

CHAPTER VII

THE AMERICAN FRONT

Tom and Jack bowed. In fact, so great was their surprise at first
that this was all they could do. Then they stared first at Bessie
and then at the other girl--the sister of Harry, their chum, who was
somewhere, dead or alive, behind the German lines.

"Well, aren't you glad to see her?" demanded Bessie. "I thought I'd
surprise you."

"You have," said Jack. "Very much!"

"Glad to see her--why--of course. But--but--how--"

Tom found himself stuttering and stammering, so he stopped, and
stared so hard at Nellie Leroy that she smiled, though rather sadly,
for it was plain to be seen her grief over the possible death of her
brother weighed down on her. And then she went on:

"Well, I'm real--I'm not a dream, Mr. Raymond."

"So I see--I mean I'm glad to see it--I mean--oh, I don't know what
I do mean!" he finished desperately. "Did you know she was going to
be here? Was that the reason you asked me to come?" he inquired of
Jack.

"Hadn't the least notion in the world," answered Jack. "I'm as much
surprised as you are."

"Well, we'll take pity on you and tell you all about it," said
Bessie. "Mother, here are the boys," she called; and Mrs. Gleason,
who had suffered so much since having been saved from the Lusitania
and afterward rescued by air craft from the lonely castle, came out
of her room to greet the boys.

They were as glad to see her as she was to meet them again, and for
a time there was an interchange of talk. Then Mrs. Gleason withdrew
to leave the young people to themselves.

"Well, go on, tell us all about it!" begged Tom, who could not take
his eyes off Nellie Leroy. "How did she get here?" and he indicated
Harry's sister.

"He talks of me as though I were some specimen!" laughed the girl.
"But go on--tell him, Bessie."

"Well, it isn't much of a story," said Bessie Gleason. "Nellie
started to do Red Cross work, as mother and I are doing, and she was
assigned to the hospital where we were."

"This was after I heard the terrible news about poor Harry at your
escadrille," Nellie broke in, to say to Tom and Jack. "I--I suppose
you haven't had any--word?" she faltered.

"Not yet," Jack answered. "But we may get it any day now--or they
may, back there," and he nodded to indicate the air headquarters he
and Tom had left. "You know we're going to be under Pershing soon,"
he added.

"So you wrote me," said Bessie. "I'm glad, though it's all in the
same good cause. Well, as I was saying, Nellie came to our
hospital-I call it ours though I have such a small part in it," she
interjected. "She was introduced to us as an American, and of
course we made friends at once."

"No one could help making friends with Bessie and her mother!"
exclaimed Nellie.

"Don't flatter us too much," warned Bessie. "Now please don't
interrupt any more. As I say, Nellie came to us to do her share in
helping care for the wounded, and, as mother and I found she had
settled on no regular place in Paris, we asked her to share our
rooms. Then we got to talking, and of course I found she had met
you two boys in her search for her brother. After that we were
better friends than ever."

"Glad to know it," said Tom. "There's nothing like having friends.
I hadn't any notion that I'd meet any when I started out with him
tonight," and he motioned to Jack.

"Well, I like that!" cried Bessie in feigned indignation. "I like
to know how you class my mother and me?" and she looked at Tom.

"Oh,--er--well, of course--you and your mother, and Jack. But he
and you--"

"Better swim out before you get into deep water," advised Jack
quickly, and he nudged Tom with his foot.

Then the boys had to tell about their final experiences before
leaving the Lafayette Escadrille with which many trying, as well as
many happy, hours were associated, and the girls told of their
adventures, which were not altogether tame.

Since Mrs. Gleason had been freed from the plotting of the spy,
Potzfeldt, she had lived a happy life--that is as happy as one could
amid the scenes of war and its attendant horrors. She and Bessie
were throwing themselves heart and soul into the immortal work of
the Red Cross, and now Nellie bad joined them.

"It's the only way I can stop thinking about poor Harry," she said
with a sigh. "Oh, if I could only hear some good news about him,
that I might send it to the folks at home. Do you think it will
ever come--the good news, I mean?" she asked wistfully of Tom.

"All we can do is to hope," he said. He knew better than to buoy up
false hopes, for he had seen too much of the terrible side of war.
In his heart he knew that there was but little chance for Harry
Leroy, after the latter's aeroplane had been shot down behind the
German lines. Yet there was that one, slender hope to which all of
us cling when it seems that everything else is lost.

"He may be a prisoner, and, in that case, there is a chance," said
Tom, while Jack and Bessie were conversing on the other side of the
room.

"You mean a chance to escape?"

"Hardly that, though it has been done. A few aviators have got away
from German prison camps. But it's only one chance in many
thousand. No, what I meant was that--well, it's too small and slim
a chance to talk about, I'm afraid."

"Oh, no!" she hastened to assure him. "Do tell me! No chance is
too small. What do you mean?"

"Well, sometimes rescues have been made," went on Tom. "They are
even more rare than escapes, but they have been done. I was
thinking that perhaps after Jack and I get in with Pershing's boys
we might be in some big raid on the Hun lines, and then, if we could
get any information as to your brother's whereabouts, we might plan
to rescue him."

"Oh, do you think you could?"

"I certainly can and will try!" exclaimed Tom, earnestly.

"Oh, will you? Oh, I can't thank you enough!" and she clasped his
hand in both hers and Tom blushed deeply.

"Please don't count too much on it," Tom warned Nellie. "It's a
desperate chance at best, but it's the only one I can see that we
can take. First of all, though, we've got to get some word as to
where Harry is."

"How can you do that?"

"Some of the Hun airmen are almost human, that is compared to the
other Boche fighters. They may drop a cap of Harry's or a glove, or
something," and Tom told of the practice in such cases.

"Oh, if they only will!" sighed Nellie. "But it is almost too much
to hope."

And so they talked until late in the evening, when the time came for
Nellie, Bessie and her mother to report back for their Red Cross
work. The boys returned to their hotel, promising to write often
and to see their friends at the next opportunity.

"I won't forget!" said Tom, on parting from Nellie.

"Forget what?" asked Jack, as they were going down the street
together.

"I'm going to do my best to rescue her brother," said Tom, in a low
voice.

"Good! I'm with you!" declared Jack.

The stay of the two boys in Paris was all too short, but they were
anxious to get back to their work. They wanted to be fighting under
their own flag. Not that they had not been doing all they could for
liberty, but it was different, being with their own countrymen. And
so, when their leaves of absence were up, they took the train that
was to drop them at the place assigned, where the newly arrived
Americans were beginning their training.

"The American front!" cried Tom, as he and Jack reached the
headquarters of General Pershing and his associate officers. "The
American front at last!"

"And it's the happiest day of my life that I can fight on it!" cried
Jack.

CHAPTER VIII

A BATTLE IN THE AIR

Strictly speaking there was at that time no American front. That
did not come until later, for the American soldiers, as was proper,
were brigaded with the French and British, to enable our troops, who
were unused to European war conditions, to become acquainted with
the needful measures to meet and overcome the brutality of the Huns.

But even with this brigading of the United States' troops with the
seasoned veterans, which, in plain language, meant a mingling of the
two forces, there was much that was strictly American among the new
arrivals.

Not only were the khaki-clad soldiers real Americans to the
backbone, but their equipment and the supplies that had come over
with them in the transports were such as might be seen at any army
camp in this country, as distinguished from a French or a British
camp.

"Well, the boys are here all right," remarked Jack, as he and Tom
made their way toward the headquarters at which they were to report.

"Yes, and it makes me feel good to see them!" said Tom. "This is
the beginning of the end of Kaiserism, if I'm any judge."

"Oh, it isn't going to be so easy as all that," returned Jack.
"We'll see some hard fighting. Germany isn't licked yet by any
means; but those, are the boys that can bring the thing to a
finish," and he pointed to a company of the lean, stem, brown
figures that were swinging along with characteristic stride.

The place at which Tom and Jack had been ordered to report was an
interior city of France, not far from the port at which the first
transport from America had arrived. A first glance at the scenes on
every hand would have given a person not familiar with war a belief
that hopeless confusion existed. Wagons, carts, mule teams and
motor trucks-"lorries," the English call them--were dashing to and
fro. Men were marching, countermarching, unloading some vehicles,
loading others. Soldiers were being marched into the interior to be
billeted, others were being directed to their respective French or
English units. Officers were shouting commands, and privates were
carrying them out to the best of their ability.

But though it all seemed chaos, out of it order was coming. There
was a system, though a civilian would not have understood it.

"Well, let's find out where we're at," suggested Torn, to his chum.

"Right 0, my pickled grapefruit!" agreed Jack with a laugh. "Let's
get into the game."

They were about to ask their direction from a non-commissioned
officer who was directing a squad of men in the unloading of a truck
which seemed filled with canned goods, when some one said:

"There goes Black Jack now!"

The two air service boys looked, and saw, passing along not far
away, a tall man, faultlessly attired, who looked "every inch a
soldier," and whose square jaw was indicative of his fighting
qualities, if the rest of his face had not been.

"Is that General Pershing?" asked Tom, in a low voice of the
non-commissioned officer.

"That's who he is, buddy," was the smiling answer. "The best man in
the world for the job, too. Come on there now, you with the red
hair. This isn't a croquet game. Lay into those cases, and get 'em
off some time before New Year's. We want to have our Christmas
dinner in Berlin, remember!"

"So that's Pershing," commented Jack, as he looked at the American
commander, who, with his staff officers, was on a trip of
inspection. "Well, he suits me all right!"

"The next thing for us to do is to find out if we suit him,"
remarked Tom. "Wonder if he knows we're here?"

"I don't even believe he knows we're alive!" exclaimed Jack, for the
moment taking Tom's joke quite seriously.

As General Pershing passed on, receiving and returning many salutes,
Tom and Jack made their inquiries, learned where they were to
report, and went on their way, longing for the time when they could
get into action with the American troops.

"Oh, so you're the two aviators from the Lafayette Escadrille,"
commented the commanding officer, or the C. 0., of the newly formed
American squadron, as Tom and Jack, drawing themselves up as
straight as they could, saluted when he looked over their papers and
their log books. These last are the personal records of aviators in
which they note the details of each flight made. They are official
documents, but when a birdman is honorably discharged he may take
his log book with him.

"We were told to report to you, sir," said Tom.

"Yes. And I'm glad to see you. We're going to establish a purely
American air force, but as yet it is in its infancy. I need some
experienced fliers, and I'm glad you're going to be with us. Of
course I have a number who have made good records over there," and
he nodded to indicate the United States, "But they haven't been
under fire yet, and I understand you have."

"Some," admitted Jack, modestly enough.

"Good! Well, I'm to have some more of our own boys, who are to be
transferred from the French forces, and some from the Royal Flying
Corps, so with that as a start I guess we can build up an air
service that will make Fritz step lively. But we've got to go slow.
One thing I'm sorry for is that we haven't, as yet, any American
planes. We'll have to depend on the French and English for them, as
we have to, at first, for our artillery and shells."

"We can fly French or British planes," remarked Tom.

And, as my old readers know, the air service boys had had experience
with a number of different models.

"We can fly a Gotha if we have to," said Jack. "One came down back
of our lines last month, and we patched it up and flew it for
practice."

"I hope you can get some more of that practice," said the commanding
officer with a smile.

"But, now that you're here, I'll swear you in and see what the
orders are regarding you. I'm afraid there won't be much fighting
for you at first--that is strictly as Americans. I understand our
air front, if I may use that term, will have to grow out of a
nucleus of French and English fighters."

"That's all right, as long as we get the right start," commented
Tom.

It was necessary to swear the boys into the service of the United
States, even though they were natives of it; since, on entering the
Lafayette Escadrille, they had been obliged to swear allegiance to
France. But this was a matter of routine where the Allies were
concerned, and soon Tom and Jack were back again where they longed
to be--enrolled among the distinctive fighters of their own country.

They were assigned to barracks, and found themselves among some
other airmen, many of whom were student fliers from the various
aviation camps of the United States. Few of these youths had had
much practice, though some had been to the Canadian schools. And
none of them had, as yet, fought an enemy in the air.

To aid and instruct them, however, were such fighters as Tom and
Jack, and some even more experienced from the French, Italian and
British camps, who had been detailed to help out the United States
in the emergency.

The next few weeks was an instruction and reconstruction period,
with Tom and Jack often filling the roles of teachers. They found
their pupils apt, eager and willing, however, and among them they
discovered some excellent material. As the commanding officer of
the new American air forces had said, the planes used were all of
English or French make. It was too early in the war for America to
have sent any over equipped with the Liberty motor, though
production was under way.

After this period had passed, Tom and Jack, with a squadron of other
birdmen were sent to a certain section of the front held largely by
American troops, supported by veteran French and British regiments.

It was the first wholly American aircraft camp established since the
beginning of the World War, and it was not even yet as wholly
American as it was destined to be later, for the aviators were, as
regards veterans, largely French and English. Torn and Jack were,
in point of service, the ranking American fliers for a time.

There had been several sharp engagements across No Man's Land
between the mingled French, British and French forces and the Huns,
and honors were on the side of the former. There had been one or
two combats in the air, in which Tom and Jack had taken part, when
one day word came from an observation balloon on the American side
that a flock of German aircraft was on the way from a camp located a
few miles within the Boche lines.

There was a harried consultation of the officers, and then orders
were given for a half score of the Allied machines to get ready.
Two veteran French aces were to be in command, with Tom and Jack as
helpers, and some of the American aviators were to go into the
battle of the air for the first time.

"The Huns are evidently going to try to bomb some of our ammunition
dumps behind our lines,"' said one officer, speaking to Tom. "It's
up to you boys to drive 'em back."

"We'll try, sir," was the answer. "We owe the Huns something we
haven't been able to pay off as yet."

Tom referred to the loss of Harry Leroy. So far no word had been
received from him, either directly or through the German aviators,
as to whether he was dead or a prisoner. Letters had passed between
Bessie and Nellie and Jack and Tom, and the sister of the missing
youth begged for news.

But there was none to give her.

"Unless we get some to-day," observed Tom as he and his chum hurried
toward the hangars where their machines were being made ready for
them.

"Get news to-day? What makes you think we shall?" asked Jack.

"Well, we might bring down a Fritzie or two who'd know something
about poor Harry," was the answer. "You never can tell."

"No, that's so," agreed Jack. "Well, here's hoping we'll have
luck."

By this time there was great excitement in the American aviation
headquarters. Word of the oncoming Hun planes had spread, and not a
flier of Pershing's forces but was eager to get into his plane and
go aloft to give battle. But only the best were selected, and if
there were heart-burnings of disappointment it could not be helped.

Two classes of planes were to be used, the single seaters for the
aces, who fought alone, and the double craft, each one of which
carried a pilot and an observer. In the latter cases the observers
were the new men, who had yet to receive their baptism of fire above
the clouds.

Tom and Jack were each detailed to take up one of the new men, and
the air service boys were glad to find that, assigned to each of
them, was the very man he would have picked had he had his choice.
They were eager, intrepid lads, anxious to do their share in the
great adventure.

Quickly the machines were made ready, and quickly the fighters
climbed into them. The roar of the motors was heard all over the
aerodrome, and soon the machines began to mount. Up and up they
climbed, and none too soon, for on reaching elevations averaging ten
thousand feet, there was seen, over the German lines, a flock of the
Hun planes led by two or three machines painted a bright red. These
were some of the machines that had belonged to the celebrated
"flying circus," organized by a daring Hun aviator and ace who was
killed after he had inflicted great damage and loss on the Allied
service. He and his men had their machines painted red, perhaps on
the theory that they would thus inspire terror. These were some of
the former members of the circus," it was evident.

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